Digital Cameras and the Rule of Thirds

Digital Cameras and the Rule of Thirds

The present popularity of digital cameras came about because of the 1980’s and 1990’s boom in point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras. These are easy to use, no hassle, just point (automatic self-focusing) and shoot. Next step is to go to the photo print shop and have the film developed. If the user does not know how to take out the film (or even insert the film in the first place) the store clerk can assist you in taking it out — and making sure that the film is not exposed in the process.

The digital cameras go up one evolutionary step higher. There is no film, so the pictures get downloaded and printed from the computer or if the user so wants, he can still get this printed at the mall’s print shop. Since almost everyone with a digital camera also has an email address, logically, lots of these pictures also get sent to wherever friends, relatives, websites are.

With almost all major film (and camera and computer) manufacturers also creating their own line of digital cameras, it stands to reason that there might be more pictures being taken now with digital cameras than with film-based cameras. Because there is no film.

There was a glaring problem with point-and-shoot cameras. It was so glaring, that it differentiates and defines the quality between pictures taken by dedicated hobbyists and professionals using SLR cameras pictures taken by real amateurs or beginners with point-and-shoot cameras. Most of those taken by amateurs and beginners are center-oriented. The subject is literally in the center of the picture. Even with the “free film” of digital cameras, this is still the case. This is partly because to the photographer it doesn’t really matter how the photo is composed. If you do not have the “eye” for composition, and no inclination to study and develop composition, this will not happen.

The other reason, is because with early point-and-shoot cameras, off-center subjects are off focus. To a certain extent this is still true of digital cameras, as some cameras will not focus unless it is centered. Other cameras just default to center-focus and the user doesn’t know the difference.

The “rule of thirds” is a simplified interpretation or rule of thumb in composing pictures. You divide the shot into 3, and have the subject occupy the left or the right — rarely the center. Simple and easy to follow. And out of focus because the camera does not focus on the 2-thirds which is the left and right, but in the middle. Could have been a great composition, just that the picture is blurred. The only solution is to study the camera manual and experiment. Should take the regular user about 2 to 3 weeks to go through the camera features while taking pictures. And forever to remember how to do it right. Sounds almost like a manual SLR learning curve. This is also related to the rule about the “Golden Ratio.”

Of course, there are now auto-focus systems which are not center-weighted, but even then, most photographers don’t pay attention to this very simple rule. Which is why, sooner or later, I will get myself a digital SLR, so I can go full-manual again. I do sound like a throwback sometimes.

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